BEVERLY – Plans to build the city’s first new police headquarters since officers carried six-shooter revolvers and drove Ford Model A’s appeared poised to clear a significant hurdle last night when the City Council approved $24 million of borrowing to fund most of the project.
The roughly $28 million station set for land adjacent to the Cummings Center would be more than three times the size of the current station and offer amenities such as hot water that sections of the Cabot Street headquarters have lacked for years.
The new building to open in about two years would replace one that police Chief John G. LeLacheur Monday night described as “among the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Councilors appeared to set to approve the spending as the Salem News went to press after experts said the city could afford to take on the debt.
City Finance Director Bryant Ayles said revenue and debt forecasts for the next several years suggest the city could spend the roughly $1.7 million in annual debt service on $24 million in bonds without exceeding the target of 10 percent of spending for debt service. The city’s total annual spending is about $135 million.
Ayles said the City Council nevertheless will have to be cautious about future spending due to other borrowing for dredging of the Bass River and new schools on some schools.
Gerry Perry, a budget analyst who advises the City Council but is not a city employee, offered a similar assessment.
“We’ve got to be careful how we handle our budgets going forward, recession or not,” Perry said in answering a question from a councilor about forecasting.
“I really don’t see us doing any large-scale projects in the next several years,” he added. “...something very large like building a new City Hall – I do not see that. We need to retire some debt over the next (several) years.”
Cost concerns also drove planners of the new station to leave out an indoor firing range, which Mayor Mike Cahill said would have been desirable under different financial circumstances.
Also Monday night, a representative of a firm hired to oversee construction of the new station said his colleagues would work to minimize excessive noise, dust, vibration and other construction by products that could frustrate neighbors.
“We’re all incredibly excited to be here tonight,” Cahill told councilors at the public hearing. “We’ve been working hard the last couple years with your support.”